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March 28, 2013

In A Pickle

More Unknown Facts About More Unknown Players

by Jason Wojciechowski

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The moment you've all been waiting for has arrived: today I finish what I started last week and discuss three facts, two true and one less so, about the most anonymous member of each National League team's 40-man roster. Each of these players is in a way of thinking one of the top 1200 baseball players in the world.

Arizona

  • Brewer's most recent tweet at the time of this writing reads, "Who's watching that new show on @ABC where celebrities no one has ever heard of melodramatically jump off of a diving board? #LOL #wow," which is fine as far as it goes except that said celebrities include Ndamukong Suh and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I don't follow handegg, but even I've heard of Suh. There's also Louie Anderson.
  • Brewer's home runs-per-nine rates in his professional career look like this: 0.7, 0.5, 0.3, 1.7. Any number of reactions to this sequence of numbers are plausible and permissible. Here are a few: "Yow;" "LOLReno;" "ReLOLno;" "PCLOL;" and "D:". Here is one impermissible reaction: "..." Apathy is not tolerated up in this piece.
  • Brewer discovered the largest quartzite cave in the world. Quartzite is sandstone that has been changed by heat and pressure. Sandstone is rock made up of, you guessed it, sand. (Basically.)

Atlanta

  • Northcraft went to Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California, which school has a renowned athletics program. Matts Leinart and Barkley (again with the handegg) both went there, for instance. The student body is 83 percent Catholic.
  • Northcraft's measurements scream "pitcher's body": 6'4", 225 pounds. The major question is what his 2012 strikeout rate screams. Northcraft finished the year at 9.5 K/9 after never topping 7.0 in three prior seasons. Where on the "breakout-fluke" spectrum does he fall? If I knew, Atlanta would pay me a lot more to tell them than anybody else would.
  • Northcraft was born in Tucson, but his parents skedaddled mere minutes ahead of a posse led by a local rancher who finally figured out who was rustling his cattle. The Northcrafts took refuge in Orange County among the other thieves, criminals, and hooligans who settled that place dozens of years ago.

Chicago

  • Whitenack attended SUNY Old Westbury, which sounds more like the school those brats on Revenge would attend than an actual Nassau County college but is in fact quite real. Here's a picture of how you get into the town, apparently. It may not surprise you to learn that the school has never produced a major leaguer. Or that Whitenack's college coach calls him "Whitey". Anyway, the main thing you need to know about the school is that it runs Monday-to-Thursday but does not permit alcohol on campus, so, like, what's even the point.
  • Whitenack compiled a 1–6 record at Daytona (High-A) with a 5.96 ERA in a pitcher's league and only four more walks than strikeouts, all at the age of 23. This is why I mentioned the top-1200 thing in the introduction. Don't forget that.
  • Whitenack is not only the best baseball player Old Westbury has ever produced, he is also the best ultimate frisbee player, known throughout the circuit for his sharp cuts, masterful control of the flick, and fearless full-body lay-outs. You can't shut him down, but if you can keep him throwing on his backhand side and make him a cog in a zone offense rather than a lone wolf breaking down his man, you can contain him. (Zone is for cowards, though.)

Cincinnati

  • Guillon threw 170 innings across three seasons at Rookie ball before making it out to the Midwest League, but he'll still be just 21 this year and he's still struck out more than 10 men per nine innings since making his stateside debut, so he's more of a "long ways off" guy than a "why on earth is he on the roster?" player.
  • Guillon's motto has always been "I try all things, I achieve what I can."

Colorado

  • Out of the dozens of Sullivans who have played professional baseball, including this guy, Josh Sullivan is the only Josh Sullivan, which maybe isn't like being the only John Smith, but it's a combination of not-uncommon names that you figure might have come before. Sullivan converted to the bullpen at Double-A last year.
  • You know how Todd Helton and Seth Smith were both backups to eventual NFL quarterbacks in college? TV guys tell you that ad nauseam, so I'm sorry to add to the parade, but: Sullivan was a quarterback at Auburn behind Jason Campbell, who now plays quarterback in the NFL. What is the deal with the Rockies and that skill set?
  • Sullivan is from the capital of and largest city in Arkansas, a town called Yellville, population 1,204.

Los Angeles

  • Ames has 55 minor-league saves in 140 games. He's finished 36 more of the games in which he did not register a save. He's also never started a single game after being drafted out of Gonzaga, though he apparently did start in college. Players who can rise through the minors purely as relievers (and without any semblance of stuff, as Ames apparently has) baffle me. And yet here is Ames: 1.93 ERA, 12.3 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9, and, after pitching successfully all year at Double-A, a ticket for the Pacific Coast League in 2013. There are players ahead of him, certainly, but it won't take that much for Ames to hit the majors and from there, who knows what happens. All without ever starting a game.
  • Ames has faced 682 batters as a professional without plunking a one. Not a one!
  • Ames was not only drafted in the same draft as Stephen Strasburg, he was drafted in the same round. Not only that, he was drafted ahead of Strasburg. Wow!

Miami

  • Mahoney is a 6'6" first baseman, which I always enjoy. Just seven men in big-league history have qualified for a batting title while playing 50 percent or more of their games at first and standing 6'6" or taller: Adam Dunn, Corey Hart, Dave Kingman (twice), Howie Schultz (twice), Richie Sexson (sixce), Tony Clark (thrice), and Walt Bond. Sexson from 2001 to 2005 popped 201 dongers and had a 131 OPS+. Mahoney could certainly hope for worse.
  • Mahoney, though, after hitting for power in 2010 and 2011, fell on his face in Triple-A with a .265/.319/.389 line that wouldn't look so bad out of a 22-year-old middle infielder. Mahoney will be 26 this season.
  • Then again, once he washes out of professional ball, Mahoney can return to his true place as the Bishop of Albany, New York.

Milwaukee

  • If Billy Hamilton didn't exist, you would be impressed by Prince's 41 steals at Double-A last year. The problem is that Hamilton does exist and further that Hamilton stole more bases in 2012 than Prince has in a four-season, 385-game professional career. First, I'm not kidding. Second, Prince is fast. And yet!
  • Prince went completely bonkers for the Phoenix Desert Dogs (w/ mustard) after the 2012 regular season, hitting .404/.491/.573 in just over 100 plate appearances. Arizona Fall League hitting stats are expressly designed to make fans overheat and pass out but that OPS was third in the league, so it's not all context.
  • Scott Boras has his office in Newport Beach, an Orange County town not far, in the global scheme of things, from where I live. This means that I see him out and around from time to time, and we sometimes have occasion to chat. I can thus tell you on good authority that Josh Prince is the real reason why Prince Fielder declined to give the Brewers enough of a discount that they would feel comfortable re-signing him. Fielder declared that the organization was big enough for exactly once Prince, and Doug Melvin simply was not willing to give up on the idea that Josh could be a major-league center fielder someday.

New York

  • I wrote about the Mets in the 2013 Baseball Prospectus annual and yet I'm pretty convinced I've never heard of Gorski. Apparently I wrote this about him in the book: "Gorski doesn't have velocity, projection, or upside, he's already 25, and his excellent component stats at High-A dipped to nothing-special status at Double-A. On the other hand, he's a lefty and he shares an alma mater‚ Kutztown University‚ with Ryan Vogelsong, so we can't count him out." Which, hey, that sounds like me, but you never can tell in this era of identity theft.
  • Kutztown U. is one of Pennsylvania's public universities. The list of notable alumni on Wikipedia includes the following people with whose names I can claim some familiarity: Ryan Vogelsong. (This isn't a comment on the school! The list of notable people who went to my college runs maybe two deep, and I love my alma mater with all my heart. I even give them money.)
  • Gorski has petitioned baseball for permission to wear his father's helmet design, which he touts as the ultimate in protection against concussions. His friends in the clubhouse tease him about his headwear of choice, but Gorski's favorite response is to dare them to smash him over the head with a bat while he is wearing the helmet. Teammates brave enough to take Gorski up on this challenge have exhibited signals of chastisement after this exercise.

Philadelphia

  • Rosenberg pitched 25 innings in the major leagues last year. Oops.
  • Rosenberg threw in relief for three straight professional seasons before he made 14 starts in 2011. This path is almost more fascinating to me than Ames', above, especially since Rosenberg's 2010 (shoulder strain, 27 2/3 inning pitched, 5.20 ERA) was such a bust. That he wound up getting starts in 2011 (and a few in 2012 as well) is fantastic.
  • Rosenberg never regretted his choice to go by "B.J." for even a minute of his life until he joined professional baseball and learned the true meaning of the word "juvenile."

Pittsburgh

  • The Duke is apparently a patient young man and one for whom patience paid off: he was taken in the 34th and 39th round of the drafts of 2004 and 2005 out of high school and junior college, but wound up going 68th overall in 2007 and signed for just shy of half a million smackers. Waiting is virtuous.
  • Welker's real name is "Matthew Scott" so you can see why he'd favor something like "Duke." He's also 6'7" and 255 pounds so you'd do well to call him whatever he damn well wants to be called.
  • In any case, the man is, like Fred Klobedanz before him, an actual duke, so to address him as "Matt" or "Matthew" or even "Mr. Welker" would be a serious breach of protocol of the type that has been known to set off international gun-firing.

San Diego

Yeison Asencio (f/k/a Yoan Alcantara)

  • "Yeison" seems like something of a translation of my name, so Asencio has earned Top-50 Favorite Player status, cemented by the fact that his name used to be "Yoan," which is awesome regardless of its origins. Asencio shaved 2 1/2 years off his age with The Yoan Maneuver.
  • Asencio has hit quite a bit (.323/.353/.474 last year), but his performance looks a lot different now that we know he was 22 in the Midwest League.
  • Asencio spent last year in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My late grandfather-in-law also did a stint there as general manager of WOWO, a radio station that was then owned by Westinghouse. That was around 1939 and 1940, though, so if I had to guess, I'd say that Asencio doesn't know much about any of this. (This bullet is actually true.)

San Francisco

  • Adrianza made his American debut at 18 and has advanced steadily up the chain, playing the full season at Double-A last year at 22, despite a professional slash line of .245/.330/.341 in 2,431 plate appearances. This tells you one of two things: Adrianza is either a good-fielding catcher or a good-fielding shortstop.
  • As it happens, he's the latter.
  • Adrianza has plans to start a jobs website.

St. Louis

  • Speaking of heuristics, Freeman is a 5'11" pitcher, so with what confidence would we say that he throws with his left arm? Seventy percent?
  • Freeman is also skinny and pitched in the big leagues last year, two facts that aren't related and thus if I were strict about how this column played out would not be in the same bullet. I'm not, though. Strict. So here's a third: Freeman's major-league fastball averaged over 94 mph.
  • Freeman owns a gallery in Los Angeles where a bunch of artists that 99 percent of us have never heard of, but who are certainly among the top 0.1 percent of artists today, exhibit their work. This all seems very appropriate.

Washington

  • Solano is a catcher who, like a frightening number of players in this series, played in the majors last season. The Nationals managed to start six different players at catcher in 2012 and small wonder given the .237/.294/.365 line they collectively put up. Solano is in no position to help on that front, what with being 27 and putting up a .290-ish on-base percentage in the high minors and all.
  • Solano is from Colombia's fourth largest city, Barranquilla, where Wikipedia tells me the murder rate is rather high. Wikipedia adds: "The thugs (42.24%), fights (31.61%) and robbery (14.94%) are the main types of homicide in the city."
  • The "h" in Solano's name once wandered off in the night while he was asleep. He eventually found it, but it was a harrowing time for young J[h]on.

 

Jason Wojciechowski is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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